Airlines. Borders. Escalating Problems for Families Travelling Abroad.

Escalating Problems for Families Travelling Abroad.

The subject of foreign travel has been aired before in my Blogs but a recent call from a client reveals that the problems are getting even more difficult.

To recap, there have been cases reported of children being taken out of one country into another, without the consent of both parents. Typically this happens when a marriage or family relationship is ending, and one of the parents of children have a wide family circle in a foreign Country.

So in a case where, say the mother is African, – the first thing the father knows of the breakup of his marriage, may be when he wakes up one morning to find that the mother and his child/children are now living in Africa.

If the father does not consent to that, the taking of the child is viewed by the English Courts as kidnapping. Depending upon the foreign Country involved, it may or may not be viewed as a crime in the Courts of that country.

Alternatively the child might be taken abroad after a divorce by one parent, in defiance of a court Order. That also of course would be viewed in England as a criminal offence, a contempt of Court.

The next step, trying to retrieve the situation and obtain an order in the Courts of a foreign Country that a child must be returned to England, can typically take years and cost a fortune financially, to say nothing of the emotional cost suffered by all concerned. Not least of course, by the children who are the innocent parties.

Some Countries have created strict rules as to what papers are required to be produced before a person travelling alone with children is allowed to cross their borders. South Africa may be the best known such country, but many others have similar rules.

So let’s think this through. If you are a single person kidnapping your child in this way, you know that you are increasingly going to be asked for Notarised consents from the absent parent.

Light-bulb moment, – you need to travel with an accomplice. Because two adults with children will look like a family, yes? Nothing to suspect, waved through the border.

OK, so, staying one step ahead of that logic, the airlines and border guards are realising, we’ve got to deal with this now. They are understanding that there is no reason to drop their guards and relax just because there are two adults with a child.

And this week I have received news from the “Notary News Group” from my colleague Katie Beckett that this logical next step has been taken at least by one airline – bear in mind that airlines are involved in this, both by bad publicity if it turns out that they have carelessly allowed kidnappers to take children onto their flights and also because they are made to pay fines if travellers they have flown abroad are refused entry and have to be flown back to England.

She says – “I recently had a panicked call from a client at Heathrow airport waiting to board a flight to SA with her husband and two teenage children. All four had the same surname and both parents were the biological parents of the teenage boys (i.e. no complications whatsoever). All four had valid British passports but the airline was demanding a notarised copy of the birth certificates of the two teenagers to show that the people they were travelling with were, in fact, their parents.

They accepted a scanned copy of the notarised birth certificates but my point is this – the airlines into SA seem to have become ridiculously strict on this point so normal rules do not seem to apply.”

So, last week, on a flight to South Africa, two happily married parents with their two teenage children were denied boarding at Heathrow airport because they could not show notarised Birth certificates of the children. Required, by the airline, to show that the adults were indeed the parents.

This requirement exceeds the likely requirements of the South African border guards, but clearly the Airline was not willing to take any chances and has imposed its own, more stringent, requirement.

Should we blame it? Of course it is a tremendous inconvenience if a legitimate family miss a flight because they have not thought to take with them evidence that they are related.

But, compare that with the “inconvenience” in the worst case, where a child’s life is completely turned around and disrupted when he is used as a pawn in a war between his parents and taken from home, family, schooling to seek to make a new life in a foreign country. Inconvenience, for him, is not the word.

All this stuff doesn’t make things any easier for the honest traveller, just one more thing to put up with, but the only advice possible now for me to give, is, if your children are under 18, get their birth certificates Notarised before travel abroad in EVERY CASE.

And of course, if one only, or no parent, is travelling with them then you need to prepare the usual notarised consents as per my earlier blogs.

Or, take your holidays in the UK? Just a thought. Here’s a song

As ever, do contact me or Christopher Atkinson here at AtkinsonNotary [0113 816 0116 or or ] where we shall be more than happy to assist and help you through the maze whenever you have paperwork to be processed for foreign countries.